Democracy Gone Astray

Democracy, being a human construct, needs to be thought of as directionality rather than an object. As such, to understand it requires not so much a description of existing structures and/or other related phenomena but a declaration of intentionality.
This blog aims at creating labeled lists of published infringements of such intentionality, of points in time where democracy strays from its intended directionality. In addition to outright infringements, this blog also collects important contemporary information and/or discussions that impact our socio-political landscape.

All the posts here were published in the electronic media – main-stream as well as fringe, and maintain links to the original texts.

[NOTE: Due to changes I haven't caught on time in the blogging software, all of the 'Original Article' links were nullified between September 11, 2012 and December 11, 2012. My apologies.]

Friday, November 30, 2012

Palestine’s Man in the Middle

Last night, a few hours after the United Nations General Assembly voted to give Palestine nonmember observer status in the international body—a move that the Times described as an “upgrade”—the Palestinian Prime Minister, Salam Fayyad, flew coach from New York to Washington, D.C., in order to see a movie about himself.

The film, an Israeli-directed documentary called “State 194,” is almost dreamily hopeful—capable, at times, of giving you the sense that this endless, corrosive, cruel, and seemingly intractable conflict is in its final stages. “If you are a Palestinian you have no choice but to be optimistic,” Fayyad says on camera. At another point, he says, “We are at the final turn to the homestretch—the homestretch to freedom.”

Mr. China Comes to America

Near the end of this year’s second presidential debate, Candy Crowley of CNN pointed out that iPads, iPhones, and other globally sought-after Apple products are all made in China. What would it take, she asked both Mitt Romney and Barack Obama, to “convince a great American company to bring that manufacturing back here?”

I listened to this question with special interest, since I was following the debate, via hotel-room TV, from the Shenzhen manufacturing zone of southern China, where many of those same iPads and iPhones are made. For the few days before the debate, I’d been revisiting PCH International, an outsourcing company I’d first written about for this magazine in 2007, in “China Makes, the World Takes.” The company’s revenues have increased more than sevenfold since then and its workforce has grown almost as fast, despite the years of global recession. This is testament both to its own success and to the nonstop surge of outsourcing contracts to China.

XL Foods Memo: Directive For Alberta Plant Food Inspectors To Ignore Contaminants On Meat Dismissed By Ritz

Gerry Ritz and the Conservatives are dismissing a leaked memo directing meat inspectors at the XL Foods plant in Brooks to ignore contamination on beef destined for Canadian markets.

"Any carcass regardless of where destined that is contaminated is pulled from the line as is the carcass on either side of it, it's called bracketing," Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz says in a report by 680 News.

New court documents show cross-country complaints about election calls

OTTAWA — Newly released court documents show that Elections Canada has obtained phone records from across the country as it probes misleading election calls that investigators believe were “wilful conduct” aimed at keeping voters from casting their ballots.

Elections Canada released the documents to lawyers in a Federal Court case on Wednesday, as soon as the information requested had been returned to investigators from phone service providers Shaw and Videotron.

Canadian economy stuck in neutral

Canada's economic expansion slowed to a crawl in the third quarter, growing by 0.1 per cent in the three months ended September and expanding at a pace of less than one per cent for the year as a whole, according to data released today.

Statistics Canada said Friday the country's gross domestic product expanded at a 0.6 per cent annualized pace, down from 0.8 per cent during the second quarter because of less investment by businesses and slumping exports.

Palestinians win historic UN vote over Canada’s objections

Did the Earth move?

For the Palestinians, who won a historic 138-9 vote at the United Nations General Assembly on Thursday — with 41 abstentions — upgrading their UN status from observer to “non-member observer state” was a seismic shift.

Not so for Canada, which stood stolidly on the sidelines, weighing in against the move as destructive to a negotiated peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians, and warning that “we will be considering all available next steps” in response.

Canada recalls diplomats from Israel, West Bank and UN over Palestinian vote

OTTAWA—Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird is temporarily recalling senior diplomats from Israel, the West Bank and the UN missions in New York and Geneva.

He says he wants to get their views on the implications of the UN General Assembly vote which recognized the Palestinians as a non-member observer state at the world body.

“Canada is deeply disappointed but not surprised by yesterday’s result at the United Nations General Assembly,” he said in a statement Friday.

Church Of England General Synod Votes No To Women Bishops

The Church of England has been plunged into turmoil after legislation introducing the first women bishops failed to clear its final hurdle at the General Synod.

The draft measure was carried in the houses of bishops and clergy of the General Synod but failed to gain the necessary two thirds majority amongst the lay members of the General Synod.

The House of Bishops voted 44 in favour, with three against and two recorded abstentions. In the House of Clergy, 148 voted in favour, 45 against and there were no abstentions.

N.L. premier ready to fast-track Muskrat Falls

ST. JOHN’S, N.L. — Anger boiled over at the legislature in St. John’s, N.L., Monday as Premier Kathy Dunderdale signalled she’s ready to approve the $7.4-billion Muskrat Falls hydroelectric project even before a curtailed debate.

It was a raucous first day of the fall sitting that culminated when Dunderdale moved a private member’s motion in support of the development in Labrador — a tactic that limits debate to “not more than one sitting day,” according to standing orders.

Union helps migrants counter worst abuses of foreign temporary worker program

Canada's temporary foreign worker program is in the media spotlight this month, thanks to the growing outcry over a B.C. mining company's plan to import hundreds of temporary Chinese labourers and a human rights complaint recently filed by a group of Mexican workers against their former Canadian employer. The light being cast on the program is unflattering, to put it mildly.

As details of the Chinese miner case emerge, it's shaping up to be a perfect illustration of how the temporary foreign worker program has become an easy way for companies to bypass the domestic labour market and import cheaper, more pliable foreign workers en masse. The human rights complaint, meanwhile, calls attention to the rotten feature at the core of the program: the tying of workers' permits to a single employer, who can fire and send them back home at any time, for any reason.

In the Middle East, the fuse that is Gaza

There is no good time for a conflict in the Middle East, but this could arguably be one of the worst in memory — and all the players know that.

Despite the rumours of a possible, Egypt-brokered truce between Israel and Hamas, there are far more concrete signs — like the tens of thousands of Israeli troops massing at Gaza's border, not to mention the continuing barrage of rockets launched by militants in Gaza into new Israeli territory — that this could go on for some time.

Ten Things You Need to Know About Gaza

As Palestinian militants in Gaza fire rockets into Israel and the Israeli Defence Force (IDF) bombard the Strip 'in retaliation', here are 10 things you should probably know about Gaza:


David Cameron once referred to Gaza as a "prison camp" and "some sort of open-air prison". 1.7million Palestinians are crammed into just 140 square miles; Gaza is one of the most crowded places on earth.

Israel, despite withdrawing its troops and settlers from the Strip in 2005, continues to control its airspace, territorial waters and border crossings (with the exception, of course, of Gaza's land border with Egypt).

Parcelling off the democratic commons for corporate profit

Don’t be fooled. The innocuous language used to describe the avalanche of so-called “trade” agreements raining down on Canada under the Harper government — the TransPacific Partnership (TPP), the Canada-European Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) and the Canada-China Foreign Investment Agreement, not to mention the plethora of single-country trade deals — aren’t about trade at all.

Their real purpose is to repeal democracy, to elevate investor/corporate rights over the democratic will of the people. Corporations — not governments — become the decision-makers, the de facto rulers.

Canada's privacy watchdog raises concerns about new mini-visa

OTTAWA — Canada’s privacy watchdog is raising concerns about a new mini-visa that will require certain visitors to Canada to disclose personal information that may include details about their mental health status and drug use and could be shared with the United States.

The Electronic Travel Authorization — a commitment made as part of Canada’s perimeter security deal with the U.S. — is among the measures crammed into the latest budget implementation bill.

Harper to stay in Ottawa despite premiers’ invitation to talk economy

OTTAWA — Stephen Harper will be going about his day-to-day routine in Ottawa while Canada’s premiers and territorial leaders meet without him in Halifax this week.

For months, the premiers have publicly called on Harper to attend their economic forum this Thursday and Friday to no avail.

Harper’s staff confirmed to The Chronicle Herald that he does not have any special events or announcements planned during the days of the meeting.

Online postings during 2011 election match rising concern at Elections Canada over voter misdirection calls

OTTAWA — Online complaints posted during the last federal election campaign show that voters were getting incorrect poll-moving calls from the same numbers that sent Elections Canada workers scrambling in the final days before the 2011 election.

Some voters vented their frustration with unsolicited calls from the Conservative Party on websites used to track the source of annoying telemarketing calls.

On sites such 1-800-NOTES and whocallsme, voters complained about Conservative calls from the same numbers cited in a flurry of frantic emails at Elections Canada in the last three days of the campaign.

Cnooc Said to Agree on Canada Demands for Nexen Takeover

Cnooc Ltd. (883), China’s biggest offshore oil and gas producer, has accepted management and employment conditions set by the Canadian government as it seeks approval for its $15.1 billion takeover of Nexen (NXY) Inc., according to two people familiar with the matter.

Negotiators for the Canadian government adopted many of the conditions requested by Alberta Premier Alison Redford last month, which include guarantees that at least 50 percent of Nexen’s board and management positions be held by Canadians, the two people said on condition they not be identified because negotiations are confidential. There are still commercial issues being negotiated such as the extent of capital spending requirements and other matters related to Cnooc’s status as a state-owned enterprise, one of the individuals said.

Deluding Canadians about 'trade' deals

The Harper government thinks negotiating and signing various deals with all kinds of countries shows it is fulfilling its economic mandate. Nothing could be further from the truth. What are erroneously described as trade agreements or, worse -- free trade agreements -- end up limiting Canada’s ability to develop and create products and services for Canadians that people in other countries might use as well.

If you want to trade, you need a product or service, a market, and money to put the deal together. All the commercial agreements in the world are no substitute for having something other people want enough to buy.

How Big Oil Luddites are blocking progress on climate change

In the interest of fighting climate change, most of us avoid buying SUVs -- fortress-like vehicles that aren't necessary unless one intends to take the whole family for a spin through downtown Baghdad.

Most of us also recycle and keep the thermostat low. However, these gestures are doing almost nothing to stop the warming of the planet.

Is the Conservative robocall narrative starting to crumble?

Here is Anita Hawdur, an Elections Canada officer, in an email a day before the 2011 election, the one in which the Conservatives are accused of attempting to rig the vote by directing voters to the wrong polling stations.

“The polling station numbers given out by the Conservative Party … are all wrong,” she writes to the agency’s lawyer. Later in the day she writes again: “The workers in the returning office think these people are running a scam.” In another, she says that some returning officers are reporting that people making calls falsely identified themselves as being from Elections Canada.

Mr. President: How Do You Define Precise?

"I want to make sure that people understand actually drones have not caused a huge number of civilian casualties…. For the most part, they have been very precise, precision strikes against al Qaeda and their affiliates. And we are very careful in terms of how it's been applied."

- President Obama, January 2012

Department of defence to spend $2 million to find out how its cost-cutting is going

The Defence Department will pay up to $2 million to hire a private company to tell it how it’s doing saving money and cutting costs.

The bids from companies, which would also recommend further reductions at DND, are due next Monday. The work is to be done in Ottawa.

The call for a private contractor to assess how cost-cutting measures are going at the Defence Department and in the Canadian Forces comes as DND states that it will get almost half its savings from cutting the number of private contractors it uses.

Who Can Stop Psychopaths from Ruining Companies? Insurers

Have bankers gone psycho? It seems hardly a week passes without another example of corporate fraud, rogue traders, rate fixing, and money laundering. Five years after the 2007 economic meltdown that wiped out $14 trillion of U.S. household wealth, the world's financiers seem to be behaving badly as ever and don't care who knows it. Perhaps expecting normal human behavior from many of these individuals is unrealistic because they are not normal -- they are psychopaths.

Corporate corruption linked to personal psychopathy presents both a problem and an opportunity. Rather than further futile efforts at regulation, solving the creditability crisis of global financial institutions may instead involve psychological screening to exclude certain individuals from occupying positions of trust they are medically unqualified for. And if so, cleansing of the capitalist Star Chamber will not be lead by government, but by the private insurance industry -- guided by the invisible hand of Adam Smith.

The Sounds in Gaza City

The bombing started on al-Hijriyah (the first day of the Muslim New Year); I was off of work because of the associated national holidays and was looking forward to a four-day long weekend. I have since spent those four days trapped in my home, in Remal, Gaza, an affluent neighborhood inside Gaza City. I am fortunate to not be living in the border areas nor in one of the densely populated—and Hamas-affiliated—camps. None of this means I feel safe.

The Twinkie Manifesto

The Twinkie, it turns out, was introduced way back in 1930. In our memories, however, the iconic snack will forever be identified with the 1950s, when Hostess popularized the brand by sponsoring “The Howdy Doody Show.” And the demise of Hostess has unleashed a wave of baby boomer nostalgia for a seemingly more innocent time.

 Needless to say, it wasn’t really innocent. But the ’50s — the Twinkie Era — do offer lessons that remain relevant in the 21st century. Above all, the success of the postwar American economy demonstrates that, contrary to today’s conservative orthodoxy, you can have prosperity without demeaning workers and coddling the rich.

Report: 70 Percent Of Retired Generals Took Jobs With Defense Contractors Or Consultants

A report released Monday by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington and the Brave New Foundation found that 70 percent of retired three-and-four star generals took jobs with defense contractors or consultants, a figure that has actually declined in recent years.

The report found that 76 out of 108 top generals took such jobs from 2009 to 2011, and a few continued to advise the Department of Defense while on the payroll of contractors. The report cited Gen. James Cartwright, who was elected to a paid position on Raytheon's board of directors while serving on the Defense Policy Board. Adm. Gary Roughead also served on the board while joining the board of Northrop Grumman, earning $115,000 per year.

A 'Grand Bargain' on the Fiscal Cliff Could Be a Grand Betrayal

With the election behind us, President Obama and the lame-duck Congress return to Washington to face a fiscal showdown, occasioned by automatic tax hikes and spending cuts scheduled to kick in after the first of the year. Most economists, including the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, agree that if nothing is done, this arbitrary, Washington-created “fiscal cliff,” as Federal Reserve chair Ben Bernanke dubbed it, will likely drive the economy back into recession.

Vulture Capitalism Ate Your Twinkies

What happens when vulture capitalism ruins a great American company?

The vultures blame the workers.

The vultures blame the union.

And vapid media outlets report the lie as “news.”

That’s what’s happening with the meltdown of Hostess Brands Inc.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Leveson Report Published: New Body Regulating British Press And Backed By Law Recommended

The long-awaited report from the Leveson Inquiry into the ethics and practices of the scandal-scarred British media was published on Thursday.

In the report, Lord Justice Leveson called for a new government law to back an independent regulatory body overseeing the press, which he said had acted in ways that "at times, can only be described as outrageous."

The Guardian said that it would be the first press law in Britain since 1695.

Fiscal Cliff Primer: Should Obama Take Advice From Regulator Who Missed Bear Stearns And Madoff?


Former SEC Chairman Chris Cox and former Rep. Bill Archer (R-Texas) penned a recent Wall Street Journal op-ed claiming that the total U.S. debt isn't the oft-cited $16 trillion figure, but a much, much scarier $86.8 trillion.

Cox and Archer reach this staggering $86.8 trillion figure by adding the existing $16 trillion in debts the nation has already accrued to all of the future obligations that Medicare and Social Security will ever have. The time figure that accountants use for this statistic is actually referred to as "the infinite horizon." It sounds like a huge number because comparing future obligations through infinity is a lot scarier than just looking at the actual debts the U.S. has accrued. Over the course of 60 or 70 years, small problems can snowball into what seem like disasters. Modest adjustments -- say, lifting the payroll cap on Social Security taxes so that wealthy people with income above $110,100 a year pay more into the program -- could solve many of the problems.

Hostess Executive Bonuses: Twinkie-Maker To Seek Approval For $1.8 Million In Bonuses During Liquidation

NEW YORK -- The future of Twinkies is virtually assured.

Hostess Brands Inc. said Thursday that it's in talks with 110 potential buyers for its iconic brands, which also include CupCakes, Ding Dongs and Ho Hos. The suitors now include at least five national retailers such as supermarkets, a financial adviser for the company said in bankruptcy court. The process has been "so fast and furious" Hostess hasn't been able to make the calls seeking buyers it previously intended, said Joshua Scherer of Perella Weinberg Partners.

Ontario Teachers Strike: Education Minister Says Government Won't Allow Walkouts

TORONTO - Ontario's governing Liberals say they're ready to respond to the threat of province-wide strikes by elementary teachers, but won't say when or if they'll force them back to work.

The province has the power under a controversial new law to stop strikes by teachers and lockouts, but Education Minister Laurel Broten won't say whether she'll employ that legislative hammer — just that she has it in her arsenal.

"My message to parents is, we have tools within the legislation," she said Thursday.

Conservatives Still Allies Despite Mayor's Ouster

OTTAWA - Those whose antics threaten to besmirch the party name normally don't get a second chance with Canada's federal Conservatives.

Not so, it would seem, for Toronto Mayor Rob Ford.

"I did support him and I do support him," said Conservative MP John Carmichael, who represents the Toronto riding of Don Valley West, after the controversial municipal leader was ordered removed from office this week for violating conflict-of-interest rules.

Suncor Drug Test: Alberta's Top Court Dismisses Bid To Randomly Screen Workers

EDMONTON - Alberta's top court has dismissed an appeal by Suncor Energy over its plan to randomly test thousands of its oilsands workers for drugs and alcohol.

Last October, the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers union won an injunction against the testing and a judge ordered the matter be settled by arbitration.

PLO warns of retaliation if Canada goes beyond ‘no’ vote at UN

As Canada takes a lead role in opposing the Palestine Liberation Organization’s bid for enhanced recognition by the United Nations, a senior PLO official is warning of “consequences” for any action against the Palestinian Authority.

On Thursday, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is to ask the UN General Assembly to recognize Palestine in the West Bank, Gaza and east Jerusalem, areas Israel captured in 1967, as a non-member state. The vote is expected to pass with an overwhelming majority.

Kevin Page: Deficit Picture Painted By Flaherty And Tories Overly Bleak

OTTAWA - A new report from Canada's budget watchdog suggests the Harper government might be in position to spring a good news deficit surprise before the next federal election.

Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page's analysis on the government's economic update budget projections suggests Finance Minister Jim Flaherty may be painting a bleaker picture than the current slowdown in the economy warrants.

Watchdog suggests Ottawa may preparing for pre-election good news on deficit

OTTAWA - A new report from Canada's budget watchdog suggests the Harper government might be in position to spring a good news deficit surprise before the next federal election.

Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page's analysis on the government's economic update budget projections suggests Finance Minister Jim Flaherty may be painting a bleaker picture than the current slowdown in the economy warrants.

Bill C-377: Costs, constitutional concerns raised in opposition to legislation targeting unions

Labour groups have called it a transparent attack on unions and on free speech. The NDP's federal labour critic dismisses it as "useless, discriminatory, unconstitutional, costly and excessively bureaucratic."

It's no surprise that Bill C-377, a private member's bill introduced by Conservative MP Russ Hiebert that would require unions to publicly disclose detailed financial information, has raised the ire of unions and the official opposition.

5 things to know about the Palestinian UN bid

The Palestinian Authority is asking to have its status at the United Nations upgraded to state recognition.

The UN General Assembly is expected to vote sometime after 3 p.m. Thursday on whether to upgrade the Palestinians' status from a non-member observer entity to a non-member observer state, a move that would put them on par with the Holy See.

No Commons marathon repeat as Speaker limits budget votes

MPs will avoid a second marathon voting session on whether to implement policies contained in the budget after the House Speaker limited the votes to a maximum of 47.

Speaker Andrew Scheer ruled Thursday morning that about 700 proposed changes could be grouped together and dealt with in 47 votes, rather than one vote on each amendment.

Greenland glacier melting 5 times faster than in 1990s

Scientists have definitive new evidence that shows all but one of the world's major ice sheets are shrinking.

The study, which will be published in the magazine Science on Friday, marks the first time scientists have come up with a way to measure the changing size of the ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica that they can all agree on.

Old (white) boys club alive and well in law, finance: U.S. study

The proverbial old boys clubs in elite professions may no longer have rules keeping women and minorities out, but an analysis of their hiring practices suggests their upper-class, male and white makeup will stubbornly remain.

According to a new U.S.-based study, bankers, lawyers and management consultants would rather hire someone who is like them than someone who is best qualified for the job — perpetuating the social and cultural makeup of these professions and reinforcing the glass ceiling that has been battled for decades.

City of Toronto proposes 1.95 per cent budget, pressures police force to freeze its budget

City of Toronto staff are proposing a 1.95 per cent property tax hike for next year but warn that the city’s return to fiscal health hinges on the police service freezing its budget.

City Manager Joe Pennachetti unveiled a proposed 2013 operating budget Thursday that would wipe out the annual predicted funding shortfall — but only if police Chief Bill Blair abandons his fight for more cash.

Canadian government increasingly asking for content to be pulled offline

Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government has been quietly requesting third party content be removed from the internet and the requests are on the rise.

According to documents tabled in the House of Commons, federal government departments have made at least 44 requests since 2006 to various companies to have content posted by others wiped off the web or removed from Google’s index.

Elizabeth May to Liberals, NDs: Let’s make a deal

“Well Ms. May,” I was saying to the Green Party leader, “nice showing in the byelections. But what good does it do? Doesn’t your Green Party scoring better just split the opposition vote more? Doesn’t it make it harder for progressives to ever defeat the Harper Conservatives?”

Au contraire, responds Elizabeth May. “It improves the chances of Stephen Harper being defeated. And I’ll tell you why. Because we’re the only party committed to cooperation. If we appear marginal I wouldn’t have the clout it takes to get the other opposition to cooperate to defeat him.”

Doctors fight to save refugee health benefits

Immigration Minister Jason Kenney has political power, taxpayer-funded polling and a bagful of emotion-triggering phrases — abuse of Canadian taxpayers, bogus refugees, gold-plated benefits — on his side.

Canada’s doctors have passion, medical ethics and a grassroots network of nurses, midwives, therapists, church leaders, social activists and health experts on their side.

Guantanamo Detainees Could Be Moved To U.S. Jails, Government Report Says

WASHINGTON — The controversial detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, could be closed and the 166 detainees being held there could be absorbed safely by U.S. prisons, a government report says.

Many of the detainees are accused of plotting terrorist acts against the United States.

"This report demonstrates that if the political will exists, we could finally close Guantanamo without imperiling our national security," said Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., the Senate Intelligence Committee chairwoman who released the Government Accountability Office study Wednesday.

Canada should boost immigration levels starting 2014, says internal report

OTTAWA — After seven years of stagnating numbers, Canada should start boosting immigration levels starting in 2014, according to an internal government review obtained by Postmedia News.

The study, dubbed a “Literature review and expert advice to inform Canada’s immigration levels planning,” suggests immigration levels should begin increasing six per cent a year to approximately 337,000 in 2018, after which levels should plateau until 2021, the end of the review period.

Since 2007, annual intake targets have been frozen at about 253,000.

Car prices just went up

If the federal government were to decree that all new cars sold in Canada must now be Priuses or similarly priced, fuel-sipping models, imagine the reaction from Canadians.

You can’t tell us what to buy! You can’t force us to spend several thousand more on our cars!

Ah, Environment Minister Peter Kent would argue, but you’ll save hundreds every year at the pump. Trust us. We know what’s best.

Costliest Jet, Years in Making, Sees the Enemy: Budget Cuts

LEXINGTON PARK, Md. — The Marine version of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, already more than a decade in the making, was facing a crucial question: Could the jet, which can soar well past the speed of sound, land at sea like a helicopter?

 On an October day last year, with Lt. Col. Fred Schenk at the controls, the plane glided toward a ship off the Atlantic coast and then, its engine rotating straight down, descended gently to the deck at seven feet a second.

Canadians increasingly cynical about state of democracy

EDMONTON—In findings that should disturb every politician across the country, a series of new national surveys suggest record numbers of Canadians are fed up with the state of our democracy.

Worse for elected leaders, more and more Canadians believe that politicians, regardless of their party affiliation, don’t listen to them, don’t care about the issues that really concern them and aren’t willing to act to preserve and improve our democratic institutions and traditions.

Indeed, the surveys indicate Canadians are more cynical now than at any time in recent history about politicians and how our democracy is working.

Federal Tories still see ally in beleaguered Toronto Mayor Rob Ford

OTTAWA - Those whose antics threaten to besmirch the party name normally don't get a second chance with Canada's federal Conservatives.

Not so, it would seem, for Toronto Mayor Rob Ford.

"I did support him and I do support him," said Conservative MP John Carmichael, who represents the Toronto riding of Don Valley West, after the controversial municipal leader was ordered removed from office this week for violating conflict-of-interest rules.

Higher alcohol prices could curb health-care, crime costs, report says

Higher alcohol prices may help curb heavy drinking and lower associated violence and health-care costs in Canada, according to a new report from the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse.

The report recommends hiking minimum prices for booze in some provinces and implementing minimums where there are none, like in Alberta liquor stores. The author of the report hopes that government uses liquor prices to affect social factors, like health and crime.

XL Foods: Inspectors told to ignore contaminated carcasses

Federal beef inspectors were told to ignore contamination on carcasses being processed for sale to Canadians at the XL Foods plant.

A memo from a Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) meat hygiene supervisor obtained by CTV News instructed CFIA inspectors to closely examine carcasses being processed for shipment to Japan, but to ignore visible contamination on meat for Canadians.

“Central Park Five”: New Film On How Police Abuse, Media Frenzy Led to Jailing of Innocent Teens

An explosive new documentary looks at a case once referred to as "the crime of the century”: the Central Park Five. Many people have heard about the case — but far too few know that innocent men were imprisoned as a result. The film tells the story of how five black and Latino teenagers were arrested in 1989 for beating and raping a white woman in New York City’s Central Park. Media coverage at the time portrayed the teens as guilty, and used racially coded terms like "wolf pack" to refer to the group of boys accused in the attack. Donald Trump took out full-page ads in four city newspapers calling for the reinstatement of the death penalty so they could be executed. However, the convictions of the five were vacated in 2002 when the real rapist came forward and confessed to the crime, after the five defendants had already served sentences of almost seven to 13 years. New York City is refusing to settle a decade-long civil lawsuit brought by the men. And now, lawyers for the city are seeking access to footage gathered for the new film. We speak to one of the Central Park Five, Raymond Santana, filmmaker Sarah Burns, and journalist Natalie Byfield.

Source: Democracy Now!
Author: --

Susan Rice's Canadian Oil Interests Pose Potential Conflict

WASHINGTON - Susan Rice's would-be path to the U.S. State Department hit another snag on Wednesday following revelations that she owns significant stock in Calgary-based TransCanada, the energy giant hoping to win approval from the Obama administration to build its Keystone XL pipeline.

The State Department is in charge of making a final decision on the $7 billion pipeline since it crosses an international border.

Union Rallies To Fight DND’s Plan To Cut Cleaners Who Make $12 An Hour – Opposition MPs Try Unsuccessfully To Get Details About Other Cuts

The Union of National Defence Employees (UNDE) is hoping to bring some heat and light Wednesday on the Defence Department’s decision to cut 60 per cent of the cleaning jobs at CFB Borden.

At the base the contracted-out cleaning services provided by Koprash Inc. will be eliminated by the end of the year, the union says. The loss of the contract will mean 120 cleaners will lose their jobs, effective December 31st. This represents 60% of the cleaning staff on the base, according to UNDE. On average these workers earn $12 per hour; yet, their combined salaries represent a monthly loss to the local economy of over $200,000, the union states in a news release. The union represents the contracted workers.

F-35 audit ‘responsible': MacKay

Defence Minister Peter MacKay says the Harper government’s decision to pay accounting firm KPMG over $700,000 to review the figures surrounding the F-35 is “responsible.”

The KPMG review of the stealth fighter jet’s cost was announced in September as costing $643,535, but is now pegged at $705,854.50, according to an order paper answer to an opposition member of Parliament.

The Commons: Give or take a dozen billion dollars

The Scene. The Finance Minister should at least feel chuffed that the Leader of the Opposition feels it important to pay very close attention to what he has to say.

“Mr. Speaker, yesterday the Finance Minister said that Canada is ‘not in need of a contingency plan’ to deal with the threats facing our economy,” Thomas Mulcair recounted this afternoon. “That was quite a surprise because just two weeks ago the same finance minister said, ‘we have contingency plans not only with respect to the fiscal cliff, but with respect to the European situation.’ Which is it? Facing the real threat of another recession, do the Conservatives have a contingency plan or not? Canadians deserve a straight answer.”

Conservatives defeat bill to ship generic drugs to the developing world

OTTAWA - The New Democrats' efforts to help Canada send desperately needed medication overseas to people suffering with HIV/AIDS was defeated in the House of Commons Wednesday – an action some are calling a “travesty” and a “betrayal.”

“It is a travesty that the Harper government, having made much of its initiative on maternal and child health, would now turn its back on an opportunity to help people dying of treatable diseases,” Richard Elliott, executive director of the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal network said in a release.

Campaign Research, Tory Pollster, Censured For Misleading Phone Calls

OTTAWA - A Conservative pollster has been censured by the market research industry's watchdog for conducting a misinformation campaign against Liberal MP Irwin Cotler.

An investigation by the Marketing Research and Intelligence Association concluded Wednesday that the actions of Campaign Research Inc. brought the industry into disrepute.

"The actions of Campaign Research have likely caused the Canadian public to lose confidence in marketing research and have tarnished the image of the marketing research profession," says a ruling by the association's three-member panel.

Canada’s governor general emphasizes diplomacy as he readies for his 19th trip abroad

OTTAWA — As he prepares to embark upon his 19th international mission since taking office two years ago, Governor General David Johnston admits the work he does doesn’t always get the attention he thinks it should.

During his upcoming nine days in Mexico, Peru and Guatemala, Johnston won’t be announcing any agreements, negotiating any deals or unveiling any of the so-called “deliverables” cabinet ministers or the prime minister partake of on such visits.